The Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department have outlined new rules surrounding anti-competitive mergers. The proposed merger guidelines are intended to cast a wider net to identify potential risks and crack down on possible illegal mergers between already massive companies.
“We are updating our enforcement manual to reflect the realities of how firms do business in the modern economy,” said Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan as reported by The Verge.
The current guidelines mostly look at how mergers affect consumers and prices. The proposed changes would factor in more digital era guidelines during the merger approval process.
The new guidelines would aim to prevent big companies from buying up smaller ones to expand their brand’s reach while snuffing out competition. If the new guidelines are approved, they will be used towards investigating potential risky mergers.
“As markets and commercial realities change, it is vital that we adapt our law enforcement tools to keep pace so that we can protect competition in a manner that reflects the intricacies of our modern economy. Simply put, competition today looks different than it did 50 — or even 15 — years ago,” said Jonathan Kanter, Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust.
A number of trade and technology groups have spoken out against the proposed guidelines, saying the rules are written in a way to specifically target digital platforms.
“As technology and AI infuse more sectors of the economy, creating a special set of regulations that apply only to specific companies doesn’t make good legal or economic sense,” said Matt Schruers, President of the Computer and Communications Industry Association.
Companies like Amazon and Meta would fall under these guidelines. The FTC has already brought lawsuits against Meta for buying Instagram and Whatsapp with anti-competition motives. While the case is still under investigation and the proposed changes have yet to be approved, the new policies could come into play for future endeavors.
The rules are up for debate until September 18th and commenting is open to the public.